by Craig Dirkes
Major Michele Heaver, Northern divisional disaster services secretary, has received the North Star Award from Minnesota Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (MNVOAD) this year for her tireless work in disaster relief.
In addition to leading the Salvation Army’s emergency disaster relief response in Minnesota and North Dakota, she also serves as vice president of MNVOAD, a consortium of disaster relief agencies that work together to mitigate and alleviate the impact of disasters.
Since joining MNVOAD three years ago, the major “has been instrumental in setting direction for key portions of MNVOAD,” according to an award statement. It said, “The Major’s relationships with other nonprofit agencies and government units reflect well on the MNVOAD organization.”
The North Star Award is given in honor of the late Garrett Allesandroni, a volunteer who spent 16 years serving at disasters in Minnesota and nationwide. He exemplified MNVOAD’s four major principles: cooperation, communication, coordination and collaboration.
“Garrett Allesandroni was a great example of the impact the VOAD 4 C’s can have on our communities, and Major Michele is clearly on that same mission,” the award statement reads.
Major Michele said she was “totally surprised” by the award.
However, it came as no surprise to those who know her. She is widely respected for her work in disaster relief and has been deployed to some of the largest U.S. disasters in the past two decades, including Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and Hurricane Harvey in 2017.
An officer for 35 years, Major Michele became interested in disaster relief through her husband, Major Bill Heaver, who passed in 2019. He spent many years traveling throughout the Midwest to teach staff and volunteers how to use the Salvation Army Emergency Radio Network (SATERN), which allows communication when power or phone lines are unavailable.
“He was passionate about EDS,” she said. “In working alongside him, I became passionate about it, too.”
The Salvation Army is one of the largest disaster relief agencies in the world, providing food, hydration, emotional and spiritual care, and other services for survivors of disasters and relief workers. In the Northern Division there are more than 600 disaster volunteers in Minnesota and North Dakota.